As many Sonke and MenEngage newsletter readers will know, Sonke, together with MenEngage Africa partners, has been working on a regional law and policy scan on engaging men. This mammoth undertaking targeted thirteen African countries with a view to assessing policies and laws covering the areas of HIV and AIDS, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, parenting and LGBTI. The findings of the scan have been summarised into individual country reports and Sonke is very excited that six of these reports have now been published. Those currently available are Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
The Kenya policy report was launched in Nairobi on the 25th of June 2013. The event was attended by almost 100 people, including various government representatives, several members of parliament, representatives from UN Women, the media and a large contingent of Kenyan civil society organisations. The event was organised and hosted by the MenEngage Kenya Network (MenKen), together with Sonke. According to Fredrick Nyagah of MenKen “the policy report could not have come at a better time in Kenya when we have a new constitution and a new government in which there is a high representation of women in Parliament”. MenKen went on to say that if “properly disseminated, it will definitely go a long way in ensuring a conducive environment and appropriate language for the engagement of men and boys in GBV and HIV prevention, promotion of sexual and reproductive health, positive parenting and achieving gender equality in this generation”. UN Women in Kenya have printed 2000 copies of the Kenya report to support policy advocacy work. Some of these copies were disseminated at the event.
Parliamentarian, Hon. Cecily Mbarire, Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) Chairperson delivered the key note address, in which she emphasised the role that policy plays as one of the collective forces that sustains gender norms. She emphasised the need for legislators to ensure that gender transformative laws are enacted. She committed her support, on behalf of KEWOPA to MenKen in the legislative and oversight measures aimed at ensuring gender equality and ultimately reducing sexual and gender-based violence.
Zebib Kavuma, the UN Women Kenya Country Director who also spoke at the event, highlighted the issue of marital rape, which is not criminalised within Kenya. This is one of the policy gaps identified in the report. She emphasised that the publication of the policy report should be viewed as an opportunity for civil society and national policymakers to make interventions which speak to the proactive engagement of men and boys in the area of GBV prevention and stressed that the report should be used as a lobbying and advocacy tool.
It is indeed an exciting time in Kenya for policy development, with regards to gender-based violence prevention. A new GBV policy has been developed and progress has been made to push for the passing of the Domestic Violence Bill. The Bill addresses sexual violence within marriage, an issue overlooked by Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act. An policy advocacy action group formed out of the event, comprising of various CSO representatives, has committed to ensuring that progressive language on the proactive engagement of men is included within the already very strong and commendable GBV Policy Draft; as well as supporting the long-awaited Domestic Violence Bill.
The event closed with all of the participants, including the members of parliament, signing a pledge to make gender equality a lived reality in Kenya through preventing violence against women and girls, including through engaging men in prevention efforts; expanding access to services for survivors of violence; and strengthening the implementation of laws, policies and action plans on violence against women and girls.
Similar policy launches will be held in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, the two other countries involved in the UN Trust Fund project to end violence against women and girls, administered by UN Women and being implemented in-country by MenEngage Africa partners.